Archive for January, 2005|Monthly archive page

Excruciating Silence

Excruciating Silence

I was surprisingly silent that day. Sitting in an auto-rick, listening to the continuous screeching turns, the banging of loud honks, hollering lorries wrenching the guts of their age-old engines, ringing bells of hawkers on the road, shouting kids – inspite of all I was silent. Or for the first time in my life, was it BECAUSE of all??

Lost in an awkward quietness of thoughts, I suddenly bumped onto the idea of how much I am used to this noise. How much I am attached to this noise and how much do I inherently love it. I am used to those loud voices with loud expressions of love and hatred. In all this as I grew up, I became a part of the sounds around me, of nature and of people. Without that noise, I feel lost. I feel left out. I am used to equating silence with death and the noise with life so much so that I started to think silence as a word that succeeds ‘crematory’.

I started to count the number of times that this has happened to me. I sit in a loud environment and I hear nothing – Just the stillness and me. The calmness of thoughts shutting me in and I feel one with life. How many times have I encountered this feeling before! When it doesn’t matter what is around me and all I see is what I was looking for an answer for. Such alacrity of thought in a place where you least expect it to see.

As a kid, I always used to wonder if I am not living the life as I should be. Should I not be allowed to be myself? Should I not be allowed to sit in my house, in quietness secluded from the rest of the world? Why should the neighboring aunty care to ask at the top of her voice, if my upset stomach is alright now, with the cute-looking girl who I had crush on, overhearing it? I thought we in our country don’t value privacy. ‘Loud people, intrusive neighbors and relatives’ – I used to curse to myself. However, I had no choice. As a kid, living in a semi-urban locality, we had some painfully friendly neighbors, who wanted to know where I stood in my class in my half-yearly examinations, why I got such less marks in social studies and why wearing short pants even in your ninth grade is a symbol of humility and no humiliation. And on numerous occasions, I cried out loud with my voice muted, “Why do you care?”

As time passed, I got used to this noise- the loudness and complete lack of silence and privacy. Concentrating inspite of all the noise is a skill that the kids in India develop. I was no different. I was glad that I can complete my math homework and physics assignment inspite of the loud whistles from mom’s pressure cooker in the kitchen and wailing dialogues of soaps from my neighboring aunty’s TV. Incidentally, after my education I had to fly abroad on a business trip. I have reached my childhood’s ideal place, though a little late – the place where there is little noise, no intrusion and your privacy is respected.

I had to enjoy every moment of it – silent reading of my favorite novels, a calm drive down the road and a complete stillness all around. That was what I always dreamt of. But strangely, how much ever I told myself that I am enjoying it, my heart was breaking with pain. The silence is too heavy for me to bear – the stillness unnerving me. I had to talk to someone; I had to laugh out loud. I switched on to listening rock music – I had to admit that till then my love for rock music was fleeting. My ideal environment for good and clear thinking turned out to be wrong. I couldn’t think when everything around me is so calm and I couldn’t concentrate. However, rock music wasn’t filling in for that missing feeling in me.

That was the point when I realized what is the difference between noise back home and the noise of rock music? Thoughts flew back home and I realized how everyone cares for you back home – The loudness of care and warmth; the noise of emotion not of a boom box. I realized that I remembered that aunty humiliating me before my childhood crush and forgot how she got me that medicine later. I wanted to get back to the mad-rush back at home. I could not fit in to that structure of quiet culture and an un-intruded private life. I wanted to belong, loudly so, with every moment.

I was rocked back to life when the auto-driver switched on to the song – “Naatho pettukunte ……!!” from a Telugu movie. The glimpses of that song I watched a while before on TV flew over my mind – hero dressed in a yellow shirt and white trousers, with a maroon hanky around his neck, dancing heavily to that beat, whistles strewn all over the song, drums blowing at full volume. Just for a minute, I thought it was loud and awful. When I inadvertently started tapping my feet to that rhythmic beat, I just smiled to myself. I indeed am a loud guy and I love to remain so, forever!

Swades – Review

Swades: We the people

A movie from Ashutosh Gowariker and I knew even before I landed in the theater that it’s not going to be ‘yet another Bollywood movie’. Swades, as a movie, I would say is certainly different. However, if you are reading this review, to find out if you should go watch the movie or not, the verdict is – “You should go see it”.

Swades – is the story of a NASA engineer coming back to India is search of his childhood nanny, Kaveri Ma, and then being touched by his experiences in a small village – Charanpur – which gets him to think. At some level, probably Ashutosh Gowariker believes and drives home the message – that we, the as citizens of India, have to do something as our part about this country to make things happen. However, I felt Gowariker has lost track of his message, entangled in the sheer numbers and astronimity of the issues gripping India today – Illiteracy, caste system, poor power infrastructure, corruption and the (clichéd) brain-drain. To handle a myriad of these issues, and to logically drive home a point I felt Swades could have done with a lot more intelligent editing. Coz, the movie is too long, a little flat at times, and when songs break out in the second half out of the blue, you can hear people in the hall sigh, yawn and hoot.

However, the Gowariker magic of the protagonist cajoling the ignorant/adamant villagers to be motivated to help themselves and better their village still worked as well as it did in Lagaan. The emotional scenes where Mohan Bharagava is moved by what is the state of rural India was very well handled. And the dilemma of Mohan Bhargava is something a lot of educated Indians can associate with. Gowariker should be appreciated for his refreshing subtlety in narration.

Gowariker once again proved that casting is as important to the movie as the script. Shahrukh Khan (as Mohan Bhargava) has acted extremely well – no hamming, no over acting, just the regular intelligent thoughtful educated Indian guy – the idealism of Mohan Bhargava shows through. Gayatri Joshi is brilliant in her debut too. She looks very much the part she is playing. Actually, all characters have acted extremely well. In that sense it feels very real.

Music is just above average. I felt the charm in the music is lost mainly due to the misplaced because of some poor editing. However, I liked “Chala Chal Rahi” and “Yeah tara, woh tara…”, and background score by A. R. Rehman ranged from being good to excellent in some scenes. Javed Akhtar as ever has written some enchanting lyrics. Cinematography is good too; it is a good looking movie without making you awkwardly feel that too much of effort has gone into to making it look good. (Like the movie “Devdas”!!!) On the whole, Swades could have been a lot better. That was my first reaction when I left the hall. And yet, somehow, I can’t stop thinking about it. It stirs the Mohan Bhargava inside you because sometimes the Honesty of the expression is more important than the Polish in expression.